Thirty years of industry development

Dr. Allan Gray teaching a Center for Food and Ag Business course.

More than three decades ago, Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business was created to serve the agricultural industry in new and different ways by offering executive education and professional development for agribusiness professionals.

Since then, the center has evolved to offer open-enrollment, custom and degree programs that serve industry professionals from both agribusiness and food sectors.

Photo of Agricultural Economics faculty member Allan Gray.

Purdue Ag Economics professor, Dr. Allan Gray.

“Our focus for the first 30 years has been helping professionals anticipate and adjust to a changing environment to allow them to make better, science-driven decisions within their respective parts of the industry,” said center director Allan Gray. “The people the center has sought to help are the people who have helped shape the dynamic, incredibly productive, highly sustainable global food and agribusiness industry we see today.”

Open-enrollment programs cover topics that include sales, management, finance, strategy, talent management and marketing. Custom programs offer similar focus areas, but allow companies to customize their curriculum to address specific needs.

MS-MBA in Food and Agribusiness Management
The center also administers a 27-month MS-MBA in Food and Agribusiness Management for food and agribusiness professionals. Students earn a master of science degree in agricultural economics from Purdue University and an MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. The program is primarily distance-delivered, but includes five in-person residencies—two at IU, two at Purdue and one international.

In lieu of a thesis, students complete a capstone project that tackles an issue their companies are facing.

Applied Research
In addition to the education and outreach missions, the center also has an applied research function. Applied research is the use of scientific theories and methodologies to offer practical solutions for real-world issues and tackle problems faced by different industry facets.

The center’s flagship research is the Large Commercial Producer Project. The project surveys agricultural producers across crop and livestock sectors to better understand their buying preferences and behaviors when it comes to agricultural inputs purchases. The study is conducted every four years and results are presented at the National Conference for Food and Agribusiness in November of the project year.

The next 30 years
This three-part mission—education, outreach and research—doesn’t change in the next 30 years. Center faculty and staff are focused on innovative ways to make sure food and agribusiness professionals have the educational opportunities they want and need to be able to keep these industries moving forward.

“As I look to the future, I see a center that doubles down on its efforts to help people in the food and agribusiness industry anticipate the challenges of feeding a growing population, access and understand the science, and enhance their decision making—all to meet these challenges head-on,” Gray said.

By Jennifer Stewart-Burton

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